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Friday, November 15, 2013

Ask the Cleaning Lady: Basic FAQ

We are lucky enough to have a professional cleaner in our midst, who has sat down and answered some of the most frequently asked questions by those thinking of going the paid-for clean route. Smibbo takes it away.

Q: Do you judge the people you clean for?

A: absolutely not. The vast majority of people I clean for are pretty damned busy people and/or they have a disability/illness that precludes intensive cleaning. Besides, they can afford to pay me, then I certainly figure they must be busy enough to warrant hiring someone.

Q: you ever snoop around?

A: not really. The closest I’ve come to snooping is checking out someone’s fridge because I was hungry. THat’s if I’ve been there for 5 hours. I’ve occasionally sneaked a candy bar, energy bar, juice drink, a stray cooky or whatnot. I think the worst I ever did was snag someone’s sugar-free pudding. Those people happened to be friends of mine as well and they told me I could help myself (lots of people say that actually)

I don’t do it often but every now and then I clean for a long time and I get hungry. I’d rather snag some minor something in your kitchen and keep working than stop what I’m doing to eat a packed lunch.

Q: so you’ve never been tempted to root through people things?

A: not really. If I’m hired to do the laundry I will naturally peruse your wardrobe. Mostly that is because everyone I’ve ever cleaned for had a HUGE wardrobe (compared to me) with really NICE stuff. I’ve been pretty jealous of some of the clothes and footwear I’ve seen. But no, I don’t really “root through” people stuff because most times I”m in a hurry and I don’t have time to stop and notice anything. Even when I’m organizing.
Well okay, I have been known to stop and peruse people’s book collections. I try to be very stern with myself and not take anything down and open it because I might lose several hours if I open a book. But I will definitely look at your collection. I believe a person’s book collection tells a lot about them.

Q: so you’ve never found really scandalous things?

A: just becaues I”m not purposefully looking doesn’t mean I haven’t occasioned across some item that might raise eyebrows! But truthfully its pretty hard to shock or upset me. Unless I found proof that someone was a criminal of the type that physically harms human beings, I really don’t care what I come across.

Q: Ooo! What kind of things??

A: Really, nothing that outrageous: fetish wear, pornography, sex toys (I tell people up front I won’t clean their personal sex toys), sex gear, love notes, recreational drugs -legal and illegal, private journals, large sums of cash, jewels… really nothing you couldn’t imagine on your own. Most times I come across items like that I barely notice because I’m concentrating on either moving it or keeping it from getting vacuumed or dusted away. I’ve held what was probably a thousand dollars in my hand in order to dust under it. I am not sure because I didn’t stop to count it, I was too busy looking at the counter top I was wiping down. I don’t read journals or letters either although I have occasionally been hired to organize “kippel” (piles of printed paper that accumulates in everyone’s abode) and thus had to glance at mail but I don’t READ it. I notice if its hand-written (save those) or typed (look for category) and put it in the appropriate pile. I’ve shined people’s fetish wear and organized sex gear tote bags (whips, restraints, corsets, etc). Other than an occasional glance of fleeting admiration (that stuff ain’t cheap) I really do not care at all. Its just one more thing to organize or clean.

You have to understand there’s a heavy mental side to cleaning like I do: I can’t afford to be ruminating on every object I come across. I barely have wherewithal to even LOOK at the objects, much less devote precious time and brain power to thinking about them. It happens occasionally but even then its brief and meaningless.

Q: What do you hate cleaning the most?

A: If you mean what area/room I’d guess I’d say the kitchen. Kitchens are ALWAYS bigger than they seem and there’s a bazillion little details no one ever thinks to clean. I could probably spend an hour scrubbing cabinet doors alone. Well, actually I’ve been known to spend more than that. The good thing is most of those details stay relatively clean for a long time. Once I scrub your cabinets, I will most likely only have to wipe them down once a month to keep them nice. But it always seems like I’m discovering something that hasn’t been cleaned in forever when I do a kitchen. Even if I was there two weeks ago. Unless I come on a strict regular basis, there’s always SOMETHING in the kitchen that throws off my timing. Plus its often dried food which – if you had cleaned it when it splattered or dripped it would have come right off but since you let it dry, I now have to scrub it with a brush, a scrubbie or my fingernail. It irks me. People pay me to clean but there are times when I’m sitting there scrubbing something thinking “really people?? All you had to do was wipe it for five seconds!” A similar thing is walls. I am always amazed at how often people spill something, it spatters the wall and they can’t be bothered to just swipe it with a paper towel and some windex.

If you are talking about what type of mess i hate cleaning most, that’s easy: moldy stuff. Anything that smells bad I cannot stand. And yes that’s another time when I actually do get a little judgey. HOW can you let something get so nasty that it starts growing and smelling? This baffles me
I despise picking up underwear that has “skid marks”

After the one time, I absolutely refuse to clean anything with maggots now. So I don’t usually clean thhe inside fo garbage cans anymore

Q: Ever break anything?

A: Once. I broke a very delicate glass while I was wiping it dry. Obviously it was far more delicate than I realized. I tucked a $10 bill into the remains of it with a note of apology and didn’t worry about it. The customer did say anything and didn’t tell me to stop coming (I came once a week) so it must have sufficed.

Actually I think I might have broken a tiny piece of a collectible once when dusting BUT I am not sure because I wasn’t familiar with what the object looked like to begin with. I was delicate and the piece was sticking out (easily broken) so its quite likely it was already broken. Since that incident I take a little bit of time to look at objects when I am dusting. Other than that, I’ve never broken anything.

Q: I bet your house is super-clean/a big mess!

A: actually my house isn’t much cleaner or messier than the average person.My house happens to be a bit cluttered because I have children and a chronic condition and I got to where I stopped wanting to spend so much time keeping it all in check when the only person who cared was me. I keep it reasonable. Every week I clean SOMETHING. If I’m hosting a party or having certain people come over, I’ll really go nuts but most times, I’m too tired from cleanig other people’s houses to really care that much about my own beyond a certain level.

I’ll tell you what IS different about my place versus most places I’ve ever gone (for cleaning or socializing) – there’s nothing in my house that has gone more than two months without being cleaned. The window sills get wiped down at one point. The inside of my fridge gets wiped down. The books and knick-knacks on shelves get not just dusted but cleaned. The toys and clothes get organized.
In other words: my house can get messy but its never dirty. Even my garbage can is not “allowed” to smell. And the kippel in my house is only allowed to get to a certain point before I go through all of it. So in some respects my house is cleaner than everyones because if I want to make it spotless, it wont’ take me six hours to do it.

Q: I don’t know how you do it, You’re amazing! What is your secret?

A: elbow grease and determination. Money motivates but I really take pride in my job.

Q: What’s a good vacuum cleaner?

A: it depends on your circumstance. If you’re living in a small 1-br apartment with hard floors, I highly recommend a roomba. If ou live with carpet, get the cheapest on the market. If you live in a moderate sized place with both hard floors and carpet, be sure whatever you buy has proper attachments and is height adjustable. If you like in a fairly large place (3br/ 3ba +) then you need a bagged vacuum. Bagless vacs simply do not hold much in the cup. Its messy and a PITA to empty those cups out. A bag can last two three complete passes through your house. Plus they are better for allergies. Brand? Pfft. The brand merely determines bells and whistles and price. I’ve had just a good experience with a $40 Bissell as I have with a $400 Oreck.

Q: What’s your favorite product? your go-to cleaner?

A: I use mostly two things: Pine-Sol and Fabuloso. Pine-Sol disinfects for toilets and the like but it doesn’t make me cough from the fumes (although it will strip the outer layer of skin from your hands) and Fabuloso is just a basic cleaner with lots of perfume that lingers. People know their place is clean once I’ve left. If the client has preferred product I don’t mind using theirs. But really, I’ve not found much that works any better than those two things. I use windex sometimes and I have a stainless steel spray I like but I can easily use Fabuloso for those things, I just have to rinse.

My REAL go-to is two things. My two “secrets of success” that does make a difference between when *I* clean and when you clean. A vacuum cleaner and a squeegee. I use a vacuum cleaner in nearly every room to vacuum up hair, pet fur and other difficult to see stuff. This means when its times to dust or mop my tools will not get filthy. If my mop is filthy from hair and fur and nasty other things, then its not going to clean your floor so good. So I make sure my tools are clean and they stay clean. The squeegee is a wonder. I use it in bathrooms and kitchens to squeegee the water and residual cleaner off. Its fantastic for making the floor even cleaner. Mop, scrub a little, then squeegee it.

Q: I read that story by David Sedaris about being mistaken for a stripper cleaner… you ever have any awkward or weird moments as a cleaner?

A: thankfully, no.

Q: Do you *like* doing that? Is it cuz of your OCD?

A: actually no, my OCD can get triggered by cleaning and if it does we’re in trouble because I will spend HOURS doing some pointless ritual. But I take medication and I have a good handle on my OCD anyway so it rarely comes up. I have other manifestations. Cleaning isn’t really one of them.
I like cleaning because it makes me feel two things:

1) that I matter, I am powerful. I take a situation that upsets and overwhelms other people and I make order out of it. Sometimes, I make beauty. Plus it really lifts people’s spirits to have a clean environment. It makes them HAPPY sometimes even. That, to me, is a powerful thing.

2) pride. Other people may clean, but I CLEAN! I do not just make things look decent, I can transform a place. I clean things no one even realizes is dirty and therefore I brighten a room without people even knowing how I did it. Its simple particle physics: any grungy dirt fragment will diffuse light and absorb some as well. It makes things look more dim and dreary. You shine everything up, suddenly everything it a tad brighter. Its like magic. I love having a reputation for being “perfect” – I know I”m not perfect but I am pretty damned close. There’s not much in my life I feel super-confident at, but cleaning is one of them.



  1. This was interesting to read. I would not have thought to ask these questions myself. It also has me thinking...when did I wash my windowsills last?
    Good post!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I have a leather, suede couch that my dog loves to lay on when I am not in the room. Recently, I have noticed that there are little dog fibers all over the couch. I've tried vacuuming the couch, but I still find hair. Is there a fur cleaning solution that grabs the fur off of surfaces really easily?

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